69 million page views

A Traditional Jewish Solution to the Hizbulla-Israel Prisoner Exchnage

Reader comment on item: Hezbollah's Victory, Israel's Decline

Submitted by Bert Zauderer (United States), Feb 4, 2004 at 08:41

Mr. Pipes
I find it interesting that in all the columns on this so called prisoner exchange, there was no mention of the traditional Jewish legal (Halacha) view on this subject.
I wrote a number of e mails to columnists on the JPost whose commented on the exchange, with no response or write up in the paper.
It seems that anything to do with the Jewish faith is anathema to Jewish secularists.
Anyway for your information here is the Halacha and Jewish history take on captive redemption.

The Mishnah tracate Gittim, Chapter 4, paragraph 6 rules:: "One does not redeem kidnapped Jews for more than their value".
Now one of the most famous examples of this ruling applies to Rabbi Meier of Rothernburg, Germany, the leading Torah scholar in late 13th century Europe, whose Halachic rulings are still followed today by observant Jews.
After a terrible increase in persecutions in Germany he decided to make Alyah to Israel (Yes there were "Zionists" in those days too)
In Italy an apostate Jew in the service of the Bishop of Basel recognized him and informed the Bishop, who then turned him over to the German Emperor Rudolf of Hapsburg. The latter demanded a massive ransom of 30,000 marks. (To place that figure in context, 100 years earlier, the German emperor demanded and received 50% of a ransom of 150, 000 marks for the English King Richard the Lion Heart. ). The ransom was raised, showing the wealth of Jews in that era, and also showing that they used this wealth to support what has been the greatest assembly of Torah scholars of the past 1000 years, including Raschi, Rabbenu Tam, Rashbam, etc, etc. . (This event also shows the anti-Semitsm of the gentile "Medieval Scholars" such as the "great" Belgium scholar Pirenne who wrote in 1933 that "Jews played a small part in the the affairs of the Middle Ages". The Jewish medievalist Golb wrote recently that this attitude persists among gentile European Medieval scholars to this day, but that is another story) R. Meier forbade German Jews to pay the ransom because the Emperor would keep pulling the same stunt over and over.. So he died in prison in 1293. Rudolf dropped dead in 1291 . R.Meier's body remained unburied in prison until 1307 when a rich Jews disobeyed R.Meier's ruling and paid a ransom on condition that when he died he would be buried next to the Rabbi. (I saw in the Jewish Encyclopedia a photo of a tombstone in a Worms, Germany cemetary that is supposed to mark his grave. However, I doubt anyone knows about this nor visits it.. Yet R. Meier "lives" every day in studies of his rulings in every Yeshiva in the World.
In case you wonder where the Justice lay in this matter. A yearl later in 1308 Albrecht, Rudolph's son, and German Emperor at the time, was murdered by his two nephews in an argument over some inheritance.

To return to the present, redeeming the 3 bodies was indeed a Mitzvah. However, it endangers other Jews who are now in harms way from those released prisoners., and another law in tractate Bava Kamma states: One does not perform a Mitzvah (Good Deed) at someone else's expense
Even the actions of Israel's government in recent decades is predicted in the Talmud. It states that at the beginning of the Age of the Final Redemption, Jews will be ruled by descendants of the "Mixed Multitude" (the gentiles that decided to tag along during the Exodus from Egypt, and convert to Judaism. They immediatly proceeded to cause trouble by building the Golden Calf.)

Dr. Bert Zauderer, Sc.D.

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2023 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)